Opuntioid cactus: declared pests

Page last updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2018 - 3:25pm

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Opuntioid cacti or cactus (Opuntia species, Cylindropuntia species and Austrocylindropuntia species except C. californica) are declared pests in Western Australia (WA). This article describes the nature of the plant with links to requirements land owners/occupiers must adhere to and pest control methods.

Form: shrub — perennial
Status: many species are present in WA, some are absent from WA.

Online identification training

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Opuntia species

Tiger pear (Opuntia aurantiaca)

Opuntia aurantiaca plant

Opuntia aurantiaca flower

Appearance

Habit: low spreading shrub to 0.3 metres tall. Branches prostrate to somewhat erect.

Pads or segments: dark green to dark purple. Flattened, sometimes rounded, 6-15 centimetres long. Easily detached. No tubercles.

Flowers: yellow to orange-yellow.

Fruit: fleshy, globular shaped, to three centimetres long. Red-purple. Sterile.

Spines: usually two to three spines, one to three centimetres long. Brown-yellowish.

Agricultural and economic impact

Dangerous to livestock.

Riverina pear (Opuntia elata)

Opuntia elata plant and fruit

Opuntia elata flower

Habit: shrubby plant with erect branches to two metres tall.

Pads or segments: glossy green, sometimes with a purple tinge, especially around areoles and margins. Often more than two centimetres thick, five to 25 centimetres long.

Flowers: orange.

Fruit: club shaped, to 6 centimetres long. Purplish red.

Spines: spines absent, or one to three short spines present at some areoles. Whitish yellow.

No common name (Opuntia elatior)

Opuntia elatior plant

Red flower of Opuntiod elatior with cacti pad in background

Habit: shrubby, forming dense, much branched clumps five metres tall.

Pads or segments: olive green. Oblong shaped,10-40 centimetres long.

Flowers: yellow-orange, with red stripes.

Fruit: egg shaped. Reddish when ripe.

Spines: two to eight spines, two to four centimetres long. Needle-like. Dark brown.

No ‘official’ common name, sometimes called Engelmann pear/prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii)

Opuntia englemannii plant

Opuntia englemannii fruit

Habit: low shrub to 1.5 metres tall. Forms dense clumps. Can be confused with O. robusta but has a low, creeping habit and pads do not have a milky blue-green appearance.

Pads or segments: green. Flattened, round to egg shaped, 15-20 centimetres long.

Flowers: yellow.

Fruit: fleshy, to seven centimetres long. Purple. Almost spineless.

Spines: one to six spines, one to four centimetres long. Yellowish.

Indian fig (Opuntia ficus-indica)

Opuntia ficus-indica plant and fruit

Opuntia ficus-indica flower

Habit: large shrub/tall tree to five metres tall. Usually with a trunk.

Pads or segments: dull blue-green. Flattened, egg to oblong shape, 20-60 centimetres long.

Flowers: yellow.

Fruit: to 10 centimetres long. Yellow, orange, red, purple.

Spines: spines usually absent, rarely one.

Bunny ears, teddy bear cactus, golden bristle cactus (Opuntia microdasys)

Opuntia microdasys plant and fruit

Opuntia microdasys flower

Habit: branched shrub, forming thickets to one metre tall.

Pads or segments: green to pale green and velvety. Round to oblong shaped, 6-15 centimetres long. Distinctive clusters of yellow glochids.

Flowers: yellow.

Fruit: fleshy, globular shaped, to three centimetres long. Red-purple. Sterile.

Spines: spines usually absent, rarely one.

Drooping tree pear (Opuntia monacantha)

Opuntia monocantha plant and fruit

Opuntia monocantha plant and flower

Habit: erect shrub to two metres tall, sometimes with a short trunk. Plant has an obvious drooping appearance.

Pads or segments: glossy green. Oblong to egg shaped, thin profile, 10-30 centimetres long.

Flowers: yellow or orange-yellow.

Fruit: pear shaped, to seven centimetres long. Red. Spineless.

Spines: one to two spines, two to four centimetres long. Brown to off-white.

Opuntia polyacantha

Opuntia polycantha plant

Opuntia polycantha pad

Wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta)

Opuntia robusta

Biosecurity Officer Terri Jasper with Wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta) in Ejanding

Wheel cactus Opuntia robusta fruit

Appearance

Habit: shrubby /tree-like to two metres tall. Many branches.

Pads or segments: blue green. Circular shape, thick profile, to 40 centimetres wide.

Flowers: yellow.

Fruit: fleshy, globular shaped, to eight centimetres long. Deep red. Numerous fertile seeds.

Spines: two to 12 spines, up to five centimetres long. White to pale brown or yellow.

Agricultural and economic impact

A large, robust 'prickly pear' type of cactus, ideally suited to much of southern WA, birds spread the seeds. Dangerous to livestock.

Further details: for further details on Opuntia robusta visit the wheel cactus: declared pest page.

No ‘official’ common name, sometimes called chicken dance cactus (Opuntia schickendantzii)

Opuntia schickendantz

Agricultural and economic impact

Can injure livestock, contaminate wool and hides and reduce or prevent grazing.

Common prickly pear (Opuntia stricta)

Opuntia stricta plant and fruit

Opuntia stricta flower

Habit: sprawling/erect shrub, up to two metres tall. Forms thickets.

Pads or segments: blue green. Egg or oblong shaped, 10-25 centimetres long.

Flowers: yellow.

Fruit: fleshy, globular to pear shaped, to six centimetres long. Purplish red. Numerous fertile seeds.

Spines: in variety stricta spines usually absent, occasionally one on pad. In variety dillenii up to 11 spines,1.5 to four centimetres long.

Velvet pear (Opuntia tomentosa)

Opuntia tomentosa plant and fruit

Opuntia tomentosa flower

Habit: shrubby to treelike, up to five metres tall. Often with a trunk. Segments and fruits covered in fine hairs, giving a velvety (tomentose) appearance.

Pads or segments: oblong to egg shaped, 15-30 centimetres long.

Flowers: orange.

Fruit: globular to egg shaped, to five centimetres long. Red.

Spines: often spineless, but can have zero to four spines, 0.5-1.5 centimetres long. Whitish yellow.

Cylindropuntia species

Coral cactus, boxing glove cactus (Cylindropuntia fulgida var. mamillata)

Cylindropuntia fulgida var. mamillata plant

Cylindropuntia fulgida var. mamillata fruit

Habit: erect shrub up to 0.4-0.8 metres tall. Deciduous leaves. Rarely flowers/fruits.

Pads or segments: green-grey green. Often distorted, with a corrugated (tuberculate) surface, 10-22 centimetres long, two to 4.5 centimetres diameter. Often numerous, easily detached small segments.

Flowers: deep red.

Fruit: inverse cone or oval shaped. Grey-green. Forms long chains. Usually sterile.

Spines: four to 15 spines, 0.7-2 centimetres long, often shorter. Cream to brown (colour variable). White to tan sheath.

Impact

Modelling indicates that coral cactus would cost Western Australia $3.1 million each year if it is not managed and $1.7 million if it is managed. 

Cook, D. (a) 2014. Agricultural Resource Risk Management. Strategic Report. Impact Assessments for Declared Plants in Western Australia. July 2014. DAFWA. South West Agricultural Region. Bunbury

Devil’s rope, rope pear (Cylindropuntia imbricata)

Cylindropuntia imbricata plant

Cylindropuntia imbricata plant

Cylindropuntia imbricata flower and fruit

Habit: branched shrub or small tree one to three metres tall. Often with short trunks. Deciduous leaves.

Pads or segments: dull grey-green. 15-40 centimetres long, 3.5 to five centimetres diameter. Large, widely spaced tubercles give a woven, rope like appearance.

Flowers: dark pink, magenta.

Fruit: fleshy, egg shaped, to four centimetres long. Greenish-yellow when ripe (can form chains).

Spines: two to 12 spines, 0.8 to three centimetres long. Trunks often covered in spines. Off white-cream. Off white-cream sheath attached.

Impact

Modelling indicates that devil's rope would cost Western Australia $3.5 million each year if it is not managed and $3.0 million if it is managed. 

Cook, D. (a) 2014. Agricultural Resource Risk Management. Strategic Report. Impact Assessments for Declared Plants in Western Australia. July 2014. DAFWA. South West Agricultural Region. Bunbury

No common name (Cylindropuntia kleiniae)

Cylindropuntia kleniae plant and flower

Habit: straggly shrub to 0.5-2.5 metres tall. Large plants form a trunk. Deciduous leaves. 0.6-1.2 centimetres diameter.

Pads or segments: light grey-green.  six to 26 centimetres long, 0.6-1.2 centimetres diameter.

Flowers: pink-red.

Fruit: egg or cylinder shaped.

Spines: one to four spines, 2-4.5 centimetres long. White to brown. Tan sheath firmly attached.

Pencil cactus (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis)

Cylindropuntia leptocaulis plant

Cylindropuntia leptocaulis fruit

Appearance

Habit: spreading shrub 0.4-1.8 metres tall. Deciduous leaves.

Pads or segments: green-grey green. Very slender, two to eight centimetres long, 0.3-0.5 centimetres diameter.

Flowers: pale to greenish yellow.

Fruit: fleshy, egg shaped.

Spines: zero to four spines, 0.5-1.5 centimetres long. Cream to pale yellow.

Agricultural and economic impact

A threat to rangelands in particular and known to impale cattle within its native range; also an environmental threat.

Jumping cholla (Cylindropuntia prolifera)

Cylindropuntia prolifera plant

Cylindropuntia prolifera fruit

Appearance

Habit: low shrub 0.4 to one metre tall. Deciduous leaves.

Pads or segments: greenish grey. 4-15 centimetres long, four to five centimetres diameter. Easily detached. Prominent tubercles.

Flowers: rose to magenta.

Fruit: top shaped, two to five centimetres long. Green. Can form chains. Usually sterile.

Spines: seven to 11 spines, one to two centimetres long. Light to dark brown, interlacing. White to tan sheath firmly attached.

Agricultural and economic impact

A serious threat to rangelands in particular as it can invade large areas and impale livestock and workers; also an environmental threat

Hudson pear (white-spined) (Cylindropuntia rosea)

Cylindropuntia rosea plant

Cylindropuntia rosea fruit

Habit: low, spreading shrub, 0.5 to one metre tall. Up to three metres wide. Old plants can develop trunks, but not commonly seen. Deciduous leaves.

Pads or segments: grey-pale green. 4.5-26 centimetres long, 1.5-3.5 centimetres diameter. Easily detached. Prominent tubercles.

Flowers: pink-red.

Fruit: oblong to egg shaped, to three centimetres long. Green-yellow green. Sterile hybrid.

Spines: seven to 14 spines, one to four centimetres long. White to light brown. White sheath loosely attached.

Impact

Modelling indicates that Hudson pear would cost Western Australia $3.5 million each year if it is not managed and $3.3 million if it is managed. 

Cook, D. (a) 2014. Agricultural Resource Risk Management. Strategic Report. Impact Assessments for Declared Plants in Western Australia. July 2014. DAFWA. South West Agricultural Region. Bunbury

Snake cactus (Cylindropuntia spinosior)

Cylindropuntia spinosior plant and fruit

Cylindropuntia spinosior flower

Appearance

Habit: erect shrub to 1m tall. Often forming patches several metres wide. Similar to C. prolifera, but different spine and fruit colour. Deciduous leaves.

Pads or segments: mid grey-green. 10-24 centimetres long, 1.5 to three centimetres diameter. Firmly attached. Prominent tubercles.

Flowers: rose-purple.

Fruit: fleshy, cylindrical, to four centimetres long. Yellow, sometimes green.

Spines: six to 24 spines, 0.8-1.5 centimetres long, interlacing. White to grey. White sheath firmly attached.

Agricultural and economic impact

A serious threat to rangelands in particular as it can invade large areas and impale livestock and workers; also an environmental threat.

Hudson pear (brown-spined) (Cylindropuntia tunicata)

Cylindropuntia tunicata plant

Cylindropuntia tunicata plant and fruit

Habit: low, densely branched shrub 0.3 to 0.6 metres tall. Deciduous leaves.

Pads or segments: pale grey-green. 10-20 centimetres long, 1.5 to three centimetres diameter. Easily detached. Prominent tubercles.

Flowers: yellowish-brown.

Fruit: club to top shaped. Greenish-yellowish to red. Spineless. Usually sterile.

Spines: four to seven spines, three to seven centimetres long. Red-brown to pale brown. Brownish sheath loosely attached.

Austrocylindropuntia species

Cane cactus (Austrocylindropuntia cylindrica)

Austrocylindropuntia cylindrica plant

Austrocylindropuntia cylindrica flower

Habit: Erect, branching shrub 0.3-1.5 metres tall. Often forms patches several metres wide. Deciduous leaves to one centimetre long.

Pads or segments: dark bluish-green, shiny. Rounded, 15-50 centimetres long, three to four centimetres diameter.

Flowers: red, cup shaped.

Fruit: egg to urn shaped, to 4.5 centimetres long. Deep green-yellow green. Can produce chains.

Spines: two to six spines, approx one centimetre long, lack papery sheath.

No common name (Austrocylindropuntia subulata)

Austrocylindropuntia subulata

Austrocylintropuntia sublata flowers

Habit: branching shrub to three metres tall. Forms patches to eight metres wide. Leaves to 12 centimetres long and these may persist for more than one season.

Pads or segments: mid green. Slender, to 50 centimetres long, four to five centimetres diameter.

Flowers: pink.

Fruit: oblong, egg or club shaped to 10c centimetres long. Green. Can produce chains.

Spines: one to four spines, up to seven centimetres long, lack papery sheath.

Weeds of national significance

These weeds (except Opuntia ficus-indica) have been prioritised at a national level as Weeds of National Significance (WoNS).

Further details on Weeds of National Significance can be found by visiting the external link(s) on this page.

Search > detect > report

Report: this pest to the Pest and Disease Information Service using the contact details given below or by using the MyWeedWatcher smartphone and tablet application or online reporting tool.

Declared pest category

The Western Australian Organism List (WAOL) contains information on the area(s) in which this pest is declared and the control and keeping categories to which it has been assigned in Western Australia (WA). Search for opuntioid cacti in the WAOL by using the scientific name Opuntia, Cylindropuntia or Austrocylindropuntia.

Requirements for land owners/occupiers and other persons

Requirements for land owners/occupiers and other persons if this pest is found can be sourced through the declared plant requirements link.

Control methods

Report the presence of this organism if it's legal status is prohibited before undertaking a control measure. Control methods for these declared plants can be found through the Opuntioid cacti best practice control manual or the opuntioid cacti control link.

Further Information

For more information on cacti, download the Opuntioid cacti best practice control manual, click on the page links, search this website or contact the Pest and Disease Information Service.

Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080